A person with a disability working at a customer service centre.
SINGAPORE: Persons with disabilities are as productive as their able—bodied counterparts, and companies should look to hire them as a way of of getting around the tight labour market.
This, according to one such employer, fast food chain KFC, which was honoured on Friday night for hiring and retaining employees with disabilities.
Among the 120 employees at the KFC and Pizza Hut Customer Service Centre in Toa Payoh, more than 20 are persons with disabilities.
Michael Gian, CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken Management and Pizza Hut Singapore, said: "Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are very hardworking, very dedicated. In no way are they less productive than their able—bodied colleagues. Once they go through the proper training, they’ll gain the confidence.
"The PWDs that we engage here are paid the same salary. There’s no difference at all. Even in terms of career advancement path, it’s exactly the same. It’s up to their individual performance, and the managers will appraise them."
The centre started actively hiring persons with disabilities in 2008, modifying the work space as they went. This included switching from hinged to sliding doors, creating wider aisles, and spending about S$700,000 on new technology such as one—touch keyboards and wider computer screens.
One of the employees there is 64—year—old Ng Koh Wan, who became wheel—chair bound after a road traffic accident in the 1970s.
For Mr Ng, who started working at the centre about 11 years ago, the new technology has been a welcome change.
He said: "The new system has improved (things for us) a lot. The monitor, especially the keyboard. It gives us a very effective one—touch button, instead of pressing three or four buttons. So it’s been very effective, service has improved, and (orders) can be sent to the store very fast."
Mr Gian said hiring the physically—challenged goes a long way towards creating a more inclusive society.
Mr Gian added: "The senior management must embrace the initiative. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) must be part of their operations. They must believe in being inclusive. Being inclusive is not just addressing (the needs) of lower—income people. The other people we should look at are people who are physically disabled.
"Once everything is set up, it’s the execution, and guiding both the able—bodied and PWDs to come together. Don’t marginalise them in any way, welcome them. I think that is really a big part of being inclusive."
According to him, it makes good business sense as well.
Mr Gian said: "To us too, it’s a win—win situation. At a time when the government is putting pressure to reduce the number of foreign workers, there is a large pool here we should pursue. If you talk about financial investments, that is only one side of the story. The other side of it is that you have them working for you and you don’t have to pay (foreign worker) levies."
KFC was one of more than 40 employers recognised at this year’s Enabling Employers Awards held on March 23. It received the Innovative Employers Award, as well as the Enabling Champions Award in the individual category.
The Awards Gala Dinner, now into its second year, recognises employers’ efforts in employing persons with disabilities and building a more inclusive workforce.
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